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School districts face challenge with shortage of substitute teachers

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 8:55 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - School districts in the Wichita area and beyond are working to secure what has become a bigger scarcity because of the COVID-19 pandemic: substitute teachers.

Wichita Substitute Teacher Association President Carna Yipe has been a substitute teacher for nearly a decade. She said she’s prepared for a different teaching environment this year.

“We do have concerns, but I’m sure once we get going, once we’re in the classroom, it will help to alleviate a lot of our concerns,” she said.

Yipe said many of the substitute teacher association members are retired teachers. A few of the members said they won’t be subbing this year.

“Underlying health problem and they decided not to risk it,” Yipe said. “others are still on the fence, still waiting to see.”

Yipe said she’s looking to reduce the risk to her herself and others by limiting her availability.

“This year, I may limit myself to a few schools instead of going all over the place,” she said.

Districts around the state are preparing fora year in which it could be difficult to find subs like Yipe.

“We know we’re going to have a shortage of substitute teachers. They’re very valuable in any year, but especially in this year,” Andover Public Schools Superintendent Brett White said.

Thursday night, Andover’s school board approved hiring 24 long-term subs for the upcoming school year, using federal stimulus money so they don’t have to compete with other districts.

“The vision there is they’ll know that they’re working in the Andover schools every day,” Whtie said. “That may be in different classrooms.”

On Friday, Wichita Public Scholls will be holding a virtual-interview job fair for substitute teachers. The event goes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can find further information, including where to sign up on the Wichita school district’s website.

Posted by Wichita Public Schools on Monday, July 20, 2020

As schools continue to plan for this fall, subs are also preparing to learn in the new environment.

Thursday night, the Andover school board also approved much of its plan for starting school. That includes a hybrid, part in-person, part online start for middle-and-high-school students to reduce the number of people in the building at a time.

White said, “Middle schools and high schools have some inherent differences from elementary, so it was really an understanding of that. The virus is different with children over the age 10, social distancing is difficult. Cohort groups in elementary that are in place aren’t really in the secondary where students are going from class to class each hour.”

This approach will last for at least two and a half weeks, at which point it will be reviewed.

“It’s really understanding there’s differences in elementary and secondary students and so that hybrid approach really makes sense for now, with the goal of getting every student back every day in the secondary level but having a process in place to really evaluate based on data when is that safe to do,” said White.

Enrollment in Andover will start next week. An option for parents is the district’s eCademy, virtual school.

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